Medical services at Shri Manimahesh Yatra 2023

Every year, the Shri Manimahesh Yatra attracts many devotees and pilgrims to the foot of Manimahesh Kailash. This sacred mountain is located in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. The easiest and most popular pilgrimage route is from Chamba. On this route, the 13-kilometer yatra passes through a highest point of 4,115 metres before pilgrims arrive at the holy Manimahesh Lake.

During the yatra, throngs of pilgrims trek slowly on unpaved tracks that are very rocky on steep mountainous terrain. Pilgrims complete the yatra over 2–3 days with overnight stays at Dhanchho or Gauri Kund. The yatra starts at Hadsar village in Tehsil Bharmour where pilgrims trek 6 kilometers through open and flat meadow land to reach Dhanchho. The next leg from Dhanchho to Gauri Kund is another 6 kilometers, with a steep climb and many zigzag paths along flowered meadows. Gauri Kund is a small lake believed to be the bathing place of the Divine Mother Parvati. From Gauri Kund, pilgrims trek another kilometer to reach the holy Manimahesh Lake situated at an altitude of 4,080 meters.

Planning and preparation

Vishav Manav Ruhani Kendra (VMRK) was approached by the Shri Manimahesh Trust to organize a medical camp for the pilgrims during the Shri Manimahesh Yatra 2023 from September 7–23, 2023. VMRK is grateful for the opportunity to leverage our experience in providing medical camps and services during various occasions, including the Kanwar Yatra and Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra. In August 2023, VMRK began coordinating with the local authorities to organize the medical camp.

The preparation for the yatra followed the standard procedure used for the Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra. Read more in our blog posts: Preparing to serve at Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra 2022 and More services for pilgrims at Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra 2023. However, the Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra taught us that transporting oxygen cylinders regularly to a remote site is challenging. Therefore, this time the VMRK team organized oxygen concentrators in addition to oxygen cylinders to ensure an adequate supply of oxygen for the pilgrims.

On September 3, the pick-up truck with all the medical equipment and supplies, and VMRK’s fully equipped ambulance with a driver and an ICU ambulatory technician left the VMRK center in Nawan Nagar.

Arrival and set up

The pick-up truck and ambulance arrived safely in Hadsar the next morning, on September 4. The ambulance team reported to the Block Medical Officer (BMO) who directed the ambulance to be stationed close to the Bharmour helipad. During the yatra, the ambulance provided emergency services to 24 patients and transported them to the nearest hospital in Bharmour or Chamba.

That same day, VMRK’s first team of doctors, paramedical staff, and volunteers also reported to the Additional Deputy Commissioner and BMO. The BMO granted VMRK permission to set up the medical camp at Gauri Kund, the highest camp of the yatra, at an elevation of 4,054 meters.

As there is no road beyond Hadsar, the team had to use 16 mules and 10 porters to transport all the medicines, medical equipment, 2 oxygen concentrators, 1 ECG machine, 1 multipara monitor, 10 oxygen cylinders, and 2 patient beds to the allotted site. The equipment had to be repacked into large bags that could be securely mounted onto the mules. Porters were hired to carry the equipment that the mules could not carry. After loading all the equipment, the team trekked to Gauri Kund with the mules and porters.

The local administration provided a tent measuring 10 feet by 20 feet for the medical camp. The limited space inside the tent made it difficult to set up the patient beds and the tables for the attending physician and pharmacist. The team decided to set up the tables outside the tent to allow ample space for the patient beds inside the tent. Every morning, the team moved the tables outside the tent and moved them back into the tent at night where it was warmer.

Round the clock medical service

The medical camp operated around the clock throughout the yatra. VMRK’s team of 3 doctors, 3 pharmacists, and 21 volunteers provided services to more than 7,600 patients who received medical consultation, first aid, and medicines free of cost. Many patients with severe oxygen deficiency were brought to the camp. After receiving oxygen, the patients recovered sufficiently to continue their yatra. Other patients had cold, fever, cough, and body pain while some sustained injuries from slipping on the rocky path. Due to the extreme weather changes from the heat on the plains to the cold mountains, many patients suffered dehydration, vomiting, and body weakness. The doctors administered glucose and normal saline to help these patients recover.

Many pilgrims and the local administration left comments in our visitor log, some are listed below:

I, Satish Kumar, was present at Manimahesh Yatra 2023 with the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team. During this period, I happened to visit Vishav Manav Ruhani Kendra (VMRK) while bringing in patients. The organization did a commendable job for pilgrims and patients. Even with the insufficient facilities here, they have managed to do outstanding work. We hope patients will continue to receive services from VMRK in the future as well. Once again I would like to express my gratitude towards VMRK as this organization has proven to be a blessing for patients.

Satish Kumar, NDRF Team Member

This year I did the Shri Manimahesh Yatra. During the pilgrimage, Sant Baljit Singh Ji’s organization VMRK organized a medical camp that provided free medical services to devotees. Due to these services, many devotees were benefited and many devotees’ precious lives were saved. I express heartfelt thanks to Sant Baljit Singh Ji and his organization VMRK, who by aiming to serve humanity, have done a virtuous deed. I hope in the future too, Sant Baljit Singh Ji will keep establishing centers like this to serve humanity. Also, doctors and staff in the camp are dedicated to serving humanity and their behavior with the patients is very good, for which they too deserve an appreciation.

Buddhi Singh, Police, Village Rehlu, Kangra, Himachal Pradesh

First and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude to VMRK. The camp brought significant comfort to the pilgrims because the camps that were set up previously did not offer complete facilities. The camp’s full amenities have played a crucial role in saving the lives of travelers. In the past, there was a notable loss of lives. We strongly recommend that this camp should be set up.

Raghuvir Singh, Village Bhuno, Hoshiarpur, Punjab

News outlets published reports on VMRK’s service during the yatra, including the article below from Dainik Jagran on September 24, 2023.

Vishav Manav Ruhani Kendra (VMRK) provided medical services to pilgrims of Manimahesh Yatra

Correspondent, Chamba:

Serving humanity, Vishav Manav Ruhani Kendra (VMRK) did a virtuous deed by providing medical and ambulance services to pilgrims of Shri Manimahesh Yatra 2023. VMRK volunteers, inspired by teachings of Sant Baljit Singh Ji, are honouring the path of humanitarian service.

This time the organisation served from September, 7- Janmashtami to September, 23 – Radhashtami.

During the Manimahesh Yatra, the organisation served the pilgrims by setting up a medical camp at a place named Gauri Kund in Chamba district situated at 13,300 feet height (note: misreported as 6,502 feet). The team consisted of doctors, paramedical staff. and volunteers. The team had various medical equipment like ECG machine, multipara monitor, oxygen cylinders, etc. and all kinds of medicines. Despite natural adversities. the organisation provided medical services which was appreciated by everyone.

The team trekked 12 kilometers ahead of Hadsar, carrying all the items on 16 mules (note: misreported as 10 mules) and commenced a medical camp at Gauri Kund. By Radhashtami, more than 7,000 patients received medical consultation and medicines free of cost. The organisation also conducted camps during the Shri Amarnath Ji Yatra and Shri Naina Devi Ji yearly pilgrimage, at which devotees were provided with quality medical services. An ambulance provided by the organisation was stationed near Bharmour helipad.

Vishav Manav Ruhani Kendra (VMRK) in service of humanity since 2005
VMRK, Nawan Nagar, District Panchkula, is a non-profit charitable society that has been in the service of humanity since 2005. There are around 240 retreat centres all over India. VMRK actively undertakes charitable social service programs to serve the medical field, education sector, and the community by supporting students, orphans, sick, and elderly.

Try to do something good and take the trouble to help others because ultimately we are one family, the family of Father God.

Sant Baljit Singh Ji